When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Miles of thoughts

10 miles are done as the sun (or, rather, gray horizon in a drizzly mist) start coming up. Weird...how weird. 2 loops into my long run, and I don’t feel a thing. As in – I don’t feel I ran any. Granted, it’s only 10 so far, and I am taking it easy today, but still – nothing? I leave my headlamp in the car trunk, grab a gel, refill my water bottle and head out. If it continues like that, I might not have to talk myself into doing the full 30...

Yes, I am taking it easy for this long run. For no particular reason. Just as for no particular reason last weekend I did 25 in a record-breaking time for each loop – each and single one of them faster then previous, setting a best from the go and improving on it to the point I had no clue I was capable of. Oh, yeah, and it was 20F that day too. You betcha, TX has cold weather. Surprised me too. My eyeballs got frozen in about 15 minutes, and considering the fact cheap me took the headlamp I used at Cactus Rose over a month ago – and kept using on daily runs too – the dim light gave no help to those eyeballs. I couldn’t even see my hand 10 inches away, forget rocks and roots – and by now I can tell you, there are plenty to break your leg at any point of time.

But that was then. I am following my own funky schedule – I go out, start running, and in a mile decide what kind of run it is going to be. Funny thing is, for about 3 out of 4 I happen to have a great one, and the times are dropping on each of my loops. Even though I don’t look at the watch until I am done. Just happens...

So, easy it is today, even though all systems are “on” and “go”. Just a lot of thoughts. Plenty to sort through. They keep me entertained, busy and amused. Personal thoughts. About love. Marriage. Work to keep both alive – I think I elaborated on it numerous times back when then. To love is to consciously choose to put on an effort, be uncomfortable at times, allow yourself be vulnerable. To love is to always remember what makes the other person feel loved, not what you think you’d like.

I am on my 3rd loop, and still gliding rather easily. I think about our family visit to meet Larry’s family on Oklahoma. I think of his Grandma. Somehow, out of nowhere, a memory of my nephew pops up – in a casket. Larry’s Grandma died shortly after our visit. I touched her face as we were leaving – thought about giving a kiss. That’s what brought Michael – I couldn’t give him a kiss when I came home, almost 5 years ago, to say goodbye to him. 5 years, oh, my...unbelievable. Did the pain got easier? Did it get away? My eyes swelled up...for a minute I can’t see the downhill, and I make myself focus.

I lost one child. I pretty close to lost another – but I am holding on to him. We talk, when he calls. I talked quite some to the folks who shelter him these days, back in Portland. Nice people...open hearts...gave home to many of their 3 son’s friends and their friends on the road of looking for who they are. I hold on to hope Alex will too. Some day...

Half-way done. Still feel nothing at all. Now, it is something new. I gotta feel something after 15 miles, no? But now, it’s all “downhill”, so to speak, miles rolling backwards. And, so far, every loop, as relaxed as I go, gets a minute faster. I am not trying, I swear. I am just all in my thoughts...

I think of my body. I really admire it. I love it – it takes me places. I treat it with respect. May be not in terms what I put in it – food is food, just calories. But I listen to it. I truly do. I am so in tune with it when I make my first step every morning, it is scary. How well I learnt it since I started on this running path...how I trust it to make best decisions. It’s mid-loop #4, and finally my glutes asked something like “What, we are not on the couch?” Funny how it is, I still feel like I just started. I think about Stephen and Harrison, and how I told Larry, he better prepare, Harrison will never be the same now that he has an older brother. I am all for letting kids explore – within limits, absolutely – and decide for themselves whether they like long hair or short, skate-boarding or biking, skinny jeans or baggy. This is minor, if you ask me. But if we let them make decisions on these, they might, just might listen to us on something bigger...I should know, I’ve made my share of mistakes.

Almost 4 years since Alex went to that first boarding school. Has it really been that long? My boys turned 14 and 19 last Wednesday – yep, my 5-year-apart twins had a birthday. Am I that old? Holly-molly. I have a 19 year old...what does it make me? Oh, yeah, right, I just turned 40.

I contemplate on it for a bit – and come to the car. 20 miles in the bag, and I feel awesome. Another minute slashed, another gel in – off I go. It is still misty, drizzle comes and goes. Reminds me of Portland, place I called “home” for 5 years. I miss it. It is normal to miss a place you fell in love with. I miss trails, I miss weather (yes, crazy rainy gray days un-end), I miss my friends, I miss speaking Russian to my Russian friends. I don’t have anybody here...not yet. Larry has a tall order – in a meantime replace everything and everyone to me. It’s a lot to ask. I know that. I am trying to be kind and not to overwhelm. I already know I am weird – I am too much. Too much to be with, to talk to, to connect with. One day I’ll make that trip and recall my whole life to someone. I just don’t think there is enough time in a day for that:)

Before I know it – somehow I am on loop 6th, my last one. It is exhilarating to think that I’ve done 25 miles and haven’t even noticed when I started my last loop! I am thinking what shape I am in. Pretty good, I’d say. Not perfect a-la 2005, but good in a long while. I didn’t apply to WS, but got missed out on MMT100 lottery -–was somewhat bitter about it. Had to pick something to do by June, since it is nearly impossible to train here through the summer (I prefer to prep for the first 100, then just make it through the rest of the summer from race to recovery to taper to next race). I did it before anyway. So, San Diego 100 it is for me. Funny, 64 100M races around the country – but either not best fitting schedule (too late for the first in the season) or the course is so un-appealing, I don’t even blink on it. Everything lottery these days...how can you possible plan anything in normal family life, if you sit on a waiting list for 4-6 months waiting whether or not you get in?

I guess I’ve been in sport for a long time, if I sound like my mom in life. Lots changed since 2003, when you pretty much jump a day before – or a year in advance. I signed up for Umstead 100 1 month before the race! Now it’s gone 9 months prior...

Oh, well. Whining doesn’t help. Running does. So I run. Go lift weight too. I truly believe in benefits of it. Plyometrics, lunges, step-ups and squats. No machines, none of those “curl this and press that”. Only functional stuff. May be that’s why my times get better and I run hills without even noticing they are actually hills? There is a dude at the gym we go to, who gets on Olympic squat bar next to one I get to at the same time. We laugh. We have an internal competition – one we joke about, and one that by now the whole gym floor is following. It started with a nod and a smile – and now I am (not really, but a little) trying to catch him and beat him. I squat with 200 lbs this week. He did 230. Not far behind, considering the fact I weigh 130 lbs, and he – about 180. I also do more reps. We both do “ladder” up and down. I think he is scared:) Overall, it is fun.

I like fun things. I am not good adhering to things unless I make them fun. This time for me, running technical trails with hills for strength and agility and running roads for the suffer-fest of moving my legs on flats is fun. I would like to get back to the track – but right now it doesn’t sound like fun. I know I have to, though, and I will. Once I beat this guy:)

Jeez, look, last downhill to the end! So many thoughts, such a great time. I like running with myself. We are a good company for each other. We are tough together. Some say – unnecessary. Did I need to go for 68 miles after I cracked my tailbone? No, but if I stopped, I wouldn’t have respected myself. I only stop when I physically can’t go. I am Russian. I am so very proud of who I am. I am from the nation that won over Napoleon – and over Hitler – all by itself, not due to smart commanders, but because of the people. Who know how to suffer. This is where our pride is. We know. We also can emotionally connect like no others. I know that too. I will forever remember it – not that I could forget. We get it with breast milk. And we pass it on...

Oops, and I am done. Nothing hurts, and I feel like I could at least crank another 15. Funny, this is what I told Larry who went to run a Fat Ass 50k event down at Bandera – after you’re done, you gotta feel like you can do 15 more. But you gotta run it at 90% of race pace. I didn’t think I ran 90% effort. Apparently, my time said I did. I’ll take it. It is my last visit of multi-looping for a long run. Next weekend we go to run around the lake for 30 miles or so, and then, as our boys go spend Christmas week with their other respective parents – drive for a running adventure in Guadeloupe Mountains! Yes, you heard me right, Texas has mountains...even if to get to them it takes 7 hr drive. It is going to be our little honeymoon – we haven’t been alone since Stephen and I moved in. This is going to be fun – run mountains, gaze at the star, explore caves, visit Big Bend park...and then, as we are back, on the morning of 27th grab the kids and head out to New Mexico for a ski trip! Yay!

Oh, and that last loop...faster than each before and touched one of my “best times”. hell, yeah! Go figure:)


  1. I'm so impressed you're cranking out the miles like that...and faster and faster too! Your body knows what to do...you don't have to tell it what it already knows. Miles to think...I like that!

  2. I really enjoy reading your stuff. your contemplative spirit...your toughness. People ask me why I like to run alone all night. My response, "I like to suffer all by myself." I think you can understand that. I think it makes one mentally tough. Don't you? AM glad you get to enjoy other parts of Texas. Keep blogging.

  3. You just keep on going Olga. Happy Holidays to you, Larry and your family.

  4. Great post Olga - You are so strong. BTW - 40 is young.

  5. There's no place to begin saying how great this post is, Olga. I'd have to write for weeks to finish. So... thanks for all of it, the tough parts, the fun parts, all.

  6. Yet again, great read and I have to get my bum out the door because running does help sort stuff out I keep forgetting that....blogging isn't dead yet!!

  7. Olga, you sound so happy and fit. You are missed in Portland, your energy and attitude. kyly

  8. Olga, I just love the stuff you write! You are awesome and I only wish the best for you. Merry Christmas and enjoy your time with Larry in the Guadeloupe Mountains. Oh, and have a blast on your ski trip with the kids, too! Happy running and I just may be running with you in San Diego!

  9. This is the kind of post that back in the day would inspire several posts in response. I love the collection of thoughts gathered while out on a run. We are all weird in our own way, don't you think?

    You sound mentally focused and ready to race. Sounds like good things are in store for 2010.

    I hope you and Larry have a wonderful honeymoon. All these years in the state and I have never been to Big Bend. Enjoy the sons and the time on the slopes. Time passes quickly.

    In your 40s you are old enough to be taken seriously because you've done some living, but young enough to fully participate in life. It's a good place to be.

    You remind me again why you are one of my favorite people.

  10. Thanks a lot for sharing this, Olga! You have the neck for being hilariously funny and deeply thoughtful in the same sentence. Just as I said before, keep up with your blog!

  11. Olga! What a great post - I loved this part: "I like running with myself. We are a good company for each other." - I think that all the time :)

    Thanks for your notes on my blog. I had an awesome time at Hellgate - I am still digesting it!!

    I loved reading in UR about the 100M race you directed - I really want to go out West to race next year... too many races!!

    Take care,

  12. Olga,

    Way delayed comment on this post on my part. I was so touched by your writing. And was wanting to comment about the number of times I too have cried on long runs about the difficult things in life. Is running healing or does it just make us more emotional? Either way, it is wonderful. And thanks for such a great post. But then I got distracted because I saw the Hells Hills race you have on your schedule on April 3rd. Well, that is the exact day SR and I were looking for a race to run in the states (and had previously planned on a 50 mile in Fla we were only mildly excited about). So our plan right now is to come to Austin/Smithville and run it. Is it possible we might actually meet in real life?

  13. Thanks for the beautiful and inspiring post! A lot of runners talk about doing weights to help with strength but never really say what or how many or how much. This post is helpful, though I doubt I could ever hope for such strength. You must have amazing gluts! Still, while my foot is injured and running sucks most days lately, I am trying weights to supplement my weaknesses. Your perspective is most timely and much appreciated!

    Have a wonderful holiday and honeymoon!


  14. You haven't lost any of your love for life and expressing it so wonderfully. Be yourself and that is all that matters.